Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kg Buah Pala breaks deadline to accept offer

The Sun
Himanshu Bhatt and Bernard Cheah

GEORGE TOWN (Aug 7, 2009): The noon deadline for Kampung Buah Pala residents to submit their agreements for alternative housing passed today, with most villagers not responding due to anxiety and suspicions over conditions imposed.

Residents association chairman, M Sugumaran, told reporters the villagers were being put under pressure to agree to the proposal, and the state government and developer had given them an unrealistically short deadline.

He pointed out that the conditions imposed included a clause that the housing offer would be void if the project was disapproved by the authorities in the future, effectively leaving the villagers in a lurch.

"Would you buy a property with this kind of condition?" he asked at a press conference at the village here.

He also questioned a clause that required the residents to withdraw all legal actions they had taken regarding the land.

Villagers’ spokesperson A Thiruvenggadam said the offer of terrace housing as "ex gratia" for the villagers to move out was not legal.

He pointed out that the land title itself stipulated it "cannot be transferred, mortgaged, pawned, sub-let or used as a business instrument without written approval from the state authority."

The title was issued on March 27, 2008, about two weeks after the Pakatan Rakyat took power as the state government.

Thiru Venggadam said it was therefore not legal for the new title-holder, the ‘Penang Government Officers’ Cooperative’ (Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang), to have undertaken a commercial joint-venture agreement with developer Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd.

He also questioned Nusmetro’s move to sign sale and purchase agreements with buyers of yet-to-be-built units in the proposed condominium project there – even before the land title had been issued.

Thiruvenggadam also stressed that Section 320 of the National Land Code allows a land title to be cancelled by the state if fraud is proven in any land transaction.

He stressed that three reports had been lodged with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) by state personnel.

Thus far, nobody knew about any development from the MACC investigations, if any had been initiated at all, he added.

"If the outcome of the investigation confirms a fraud in the land transaction, then the state can cancel the land title issued to the Cooperative," he said.

"If the fraud is proven, and the state was to use the above section, the Kampung Buah Pala land would become state land again."

He noted that PR leaders, including Deputy Chief Minister (II) Prof Dr P Ramasamy, Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh, Sri Delima assemblyman RSN Rayer, and PKR adviser and Permatang Pauh MP Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had promised that the land would be saved for the villagers.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng urged the residents to accept the offer so as to "move forward".

He called the offer "the best deal in Malaysian history", and said he felt the residents were losing public support.

"If they continue to make unreasonable demands, they will finally be a loser. There are (several quarters) who offer to demonstrate or file a court case everyday, but will these get you a house with legally bidding title?" he asked.

Lim added that there were people who were trying to take advantage of the situation, and keen to see the demolition of the village to undermine the Pakatan Rakyat.

He said the details of the offer can be discussed later once the villagers had agreed in principle.

"We want you to adopt in principal first, then we will work out the details later - including the time to move out. We can talk to the developer to give some time and leeway for the people before the eviction," he said.

Lim told reporters this after officiating the Pikom Regional Chapter Seminar at Traders Hotel today (7 Aug 2009)

Guan Eng washes his hands off Buah Pala after residents reject homes

By The Malaysian Insider,

GEORGETOWN, Aug 8 – Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today he would have no further meetings with the residents of Kampung Buah Pala after they rejected an offer of a double-storey terrace house for each family.

He said the demand by residents for compensation of RM3.5 million each instead of the double-storey house negotiated by the states was unacceptable.

“Perhaps the residents should ask around to see if Penangites would support their demand.

“We understand their predicament but there is only so much the government can do to help them,” he said today.

The Kampung Buah Pala issue has dogged Lim’s administration in recent weeks after the issue was turned into a racial dispute with Hindraf leaders accusing the state of helping to destroy what they claim was an Indian heritage area.

The controversy took a farcical turn with Hindraf recently saying it had made an appeal to Unesco to revoke Georgetown’s heritage city status for allowing Kampung Buah Pala – a settlement of cowherds – to be destroyed.

Kampong Buah Pala sits on former plantation land which the former colonial owners had given in trust to its former workers to live on when they left the state.

The British colonial government acted as trustees, but the land was signed away back to the state during independence, and the descendents of the original settlers had been allowed to stay on what had become temporary occupational license (TOL) land.

During the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration, the land was sold, and the current owners won a court decision recently to evict the villagers in order to develop high-rise apartments.

Lim said today that he believed the Penang public was angry at the latest development in the controversy since the villagers had rejected the offer from the developer.

“Don’t forget we’re trying to offer you a house.

“Now we even have people from Selangor speaking on behalf of the residents. Maybe they can fight for them and demand for a RM3.5mil house.

“Those outsiders, they have their own houses to go back to. Even some of the residents’ association members have other houses,” he said.

Commenting on the residents’ reasons for not accepting the offer, he explained that they appeared to be unhappy with a clause inserted in the proposed agreement which was meant to protect the rights of the developer.

The clause in question states that the agreement would be null and void if it could not obtain the state government’s approval to build the houses.

“If they want to build and the state government does not allow, they will then be sued by the residents.

“Do you think we will reject or revoke building plans for the 24 houses when we are the ones who found the formula to resolve the issue?” he said.